Clicks or it didn’t happen: Influencers, sex bait, and commodified activism

In the hyper-competitive ecology of Influencer content production, sex, gender, and sexuality are clickworthy topics that lure followers through enticement, entertainment, and education. Given the logic of their attention economy, many Influencers adopt sex bait as a narrative device to craft advertorials and share personal stories, unwittingly becoming effective informal sexuality educators and mediators of sexual literacies. Informed by my larger digital ethnography on queer Influencers in the Asia Pacific, this paper focuses on Singapore as an exemplar of the potentials and limitations of popular activism at the intersection of queer and microcelebrity publics. Considering the nation-state’s conservative approach towards medicalized, abstinence-only, heteronormative sexuality education, Influencers in this economy are contentious vehicles for marginalized and subversive discourses. However, progressive virality yardsticks have resulted in entertainment as the premise, insidiously propagating apolitical queer content and challenging Influencers to innovate. This paper will briefly recap five milestones in Singapore’s queer(ing) Influencer ecology, and their wrestle with commodified activism in digital spaces: 1) Repeal 377A campaigns on the internet (2007), 2) Pink Dot SG and viral videos (2009), 3) Consumption-oriented sexual health clickbait (Abidin 2017), 4) Parody politics for micro-minority representation (Abidin forthcoming), and 5) the Free Fad & Fifi campaign (2017).


For the workshop: *Abidin, Crystal. 2017. “Clicks or it didn’t happen: Influencers, sex bait, and commodified activism.” Youth, Digital Participation and Citizenship in the Asia Pacific Workshop, Deakin University, Melbourne. November 8-9, 2017.